A forward-thinking businessman who embraced new technology while remaining grounded in the communities he served, John Andrews is remembered not only for his industry prowess but as a champion for the independent, family-operated cable business.
The founder and president of Salem, Illinois-based US Sonet, who died in February at age 51, ran one of the most successful fiber to the home overbuilders in the country. Under his leadership US Sonet achieved close to a 51 percent overall take rate and still boasts one of the highest voice, video and data take rates.
Andrews steered the company through a major expansion that included the transformation to an all IP, over ethernet infrastructure. He welcomed the deployment of TV Everywhere and saw opportunity, not threat, in the rise of OTT services, always keeping the customer experience top of mind.
His wife, Rhonda Andrews, tell us she put “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing” on his tombstone. “John overdid EVERYTHING,” she says. “If I wanted one candy bar, he would buy me six. If someone wanted something, he gave them more than double what they asked. He answered calls all of the time about work—even during dinner and in the middle of the night. He overthought everything. He was also the most giving and positive person I have ever known.” And to top it off, he never complained, she adds.
“John embodied the entrepreneur spirit of ACA members,” says Rob Shema, ACA EVP member services and finance chief of staff. “He saw a need in his community, and he was not deterred by competition or challenges. He made sure his local, rural, small community had broadband services that equaled or surpassed the services found in nearby major cities like St. Louis.”
An active member of the FTTH Council, Andrews also built multiple IPTV headend/earthstations, and co-founded a number of tech and communications companies including Access US and Lightspeed Telecom, an Illinois certified facilities-based CLEC and wholly owned subsidiary to US Sonet. He also founded Fiber 520-522 LLC (Fiber 520), which he formed to serve a larger base in southern Illinois. The company in 2007 received one of the largest broadband loans from the US Department of Agriculture—more than $127 million—to install FTTH in towns with populations of 20,000 or less in more than 75 rural communities in southwestern Illinois.
As he competed with—and often bested—some of the majors, Andrews was above all an example of the triumph of the indie operator. As a panel speaker at the 2011 Independent Show, when asked about the values he wants to impart to his sons who would succeed him one day, Andrews responded he was trying to “teach them the caring characteristics so that some day they can step in my shoes” and a strong work ethic. “It doesn’t matter what your position is, just work,” he said.